Jill: Mark loves his coffee. I love Mark but I’m not particularly fond of his coffee. It seems I find coffee rings and coffee splotches everywhere. In the car. On the floor. On the table beside his chair (he takes the concept of “coffee table” to a whole new level!). After years of dealing with his coffee messes, I’ve decided to offer grace.
Mark: Grace is a free gift from God. Because of Jesus, we deserve punishment but we get mercy instead. It’s an upside down response to what we deserve. God gives us grace because of who He is. We don’t earn it. We don’t even deserve it.
Jill: Several years ago, Mark and I coined the phrase “grace space” to describe the much needed tool of grace in marriage. Grace space happens when we allow another person to be human, to make mistakes, be imperfect, and to have their own idiosyncrasies. When we give grace, it is an internal decision to forgive and a choice to let something go without addressing it.
Mark: Grace is a first cousin to forgiveness. In fact it requires forgiveness. However, grace is the tool we need to forgive and really let something go.
Jill: We use this tool when dealing with the harmless habits that bug us but don’t really hurt us. Like coffee. Or leaving lights on. Or leaving the toilet seat up. Or doing things differently than we would.
Mark: We also use our God-tool of grace when dealing with our spouse’s human limitations. Jill has to pull out the God-tool of grace when dealing with me being hard of hearing and missing things that are said (I often forget to put my hearing aids in after work), having ADHD (I have too much going on in my mind and have difficulty focusing), and having a smaller emotional capacity (I wear out before she does). Do I do these things on purpose? Nope! I do them because I am human.
Jill: Mark has to pull out my God-tool of grace when he says something to me and my internal-processing brain is thinking about something else so I don’t hear him. He has to use grace when I misplace something (I only buy sunglasses and reading glasses at the Dollar Store because I lose them all the time!). Mark uses grace when I forget to pack something on a trip. Do I do these things on purpose? Nope! I do them because I’m human. Grace needs to be the tool we choose to use to handle our spouse’s human nature.
Mark: When thinking through whether something needs forgiveness or grace, ask yourself these two questions:
- Does this hurt me or just irritate me?
- Does this need to be corrected or simply accepted as part of being married to an imperfect person?
Jill: Grace is a beautiful gift to give to our spouse, especially if he/she is aware of places where he/she falls short or has bad habits. Grace replaces criticism. Even if he/she isn’t aware of their shortcomings, you can use your tool of grace. It’s also a beautiful gift to give yourself because it gives you another option for responding to your spouse’s imperfections than criticizing.
Mark: When we walk through life as grace givers, we have less stress and are happier. It reflects in our life and actions. I spent so much of our early years (1-29ish) trying to change Jill. In the beginning I so loved her strong personality, her decisiveness, her black and white thinking, but I soon became frustrated by it and began to work against those things. As I look back, I wasn’t allowing her to be her. I wanted her to be different. My intense desires were robbing me of life, peace, and happiness. Grace restored all of that to me.
Jill: The next time you find yourself frustrated with your spouse’s human shortcoming, replace criticism with grace. When you do, you’ll give a beautiful gift to your marriage!